ERGs Help Build ‘Inclusive Culture for Everyone’

ERGs Help Build ‘Inclusive Culture for Everyone’

In the wake of explosive race riots in Rochester, New York, in July 1964, Rochester-based Xerox began conversations about an advocacy group for its Black employees. While Xerox was ahead of its time in terms of diversity hiring, its Black employees still faced discrimination once hired.  

CEO Joseph Wilson and Xerox’s Black employees ultimately launched the National Black Employees Caucus in 1970, forming what is widely regarded as the nation’s first Employee Resource Group, or ERG.  

Today, ERGs – voluntary, employee-led groups of people with common interests, backgrounds, or demographic characteristics – are common in corporate America, where they are featured in 90% of Fortune 500 companies.  

Employee Resource Groups create a sense of belonging and foster an inclusive culture for everyone,” said Jodi Woleslagle, senior vice president of human resources at Capital Blue Cross, which has several ERGs. “To recognize and respect employees as whole people greatly benefits the organization, our mission, and the communities we serve.” 


Effects and Effectiveness  

The Society for Human Resource Management credits successful ERGs with: 

  • Improving work conditions for employees who feel alienated; 
  • Making the physical work environment better for everyone; 
  • Bringing employees together in a safe place; 
  • Identifying and developing leaders in the making; 
  • Meeting the company’s challenges; 
  • Decreasing suppressed frustrations by giving employees a group setting to address issues they may feel are too risky to address on their own. 

According to global consulting firm McKinsey & Company, the most impactful ERGs “boost feelings of inclusion for traditionally underrepresented segments of workers, improve the attraction and retention of employees who identify with these segments, and increase representation of diverse talent.”  

How can employers best ensure their ERGs are effective? McKinsey’s research suggests companies with successful ERGs use a clear purpose or mission statement; provide deliberate and detailed communications; distribute both leadership and funding support evenly among the company’s ERGs; and gather as much possible organizational support to decrease any additional burdens on ERG leaders. 


Building Momentum 

Starting one or more ERGs can be either a top-down or bottom-up process, depending on the company. Either way, support from executive management is critical. 

Capital Blue Cross’ recent success starting ERGs is an example. With leadership’s support, employees from Capital and its dental-insurance subsidiary, Dominion, formed the companies’ first two ERGs – WIN (Women’s Impact Network) and LUNA (Latinos Unidos Network Azul) – in 2022. The groups’ popularity built momentum, and this year employees launched a third ERG, BUILT (Blacks United in Legacy Together). Two additional ERGs are also in the works, with plans to launch in the first half of 2023.  

“ERGs advance the company’s mission, enhance employee engagement, increase recruitment and retention, and provide opportunities for networking, career development, and community outreach,” Woleslagle said. “We are extremely excited with how well our ERGs have taken off, and how positively they’ve been received by our employees. Because of them, we are better positioned to succeed in the future.”  

(For more health and wellness news and information that can benefit your business and employees, visit thinkcapitalbluecross.com.) 




How Is My Site?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...